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Embroidered Cancer Comic

Embroidered Cancer Comic

Sima Elizabeth Shefrin



Come to bed with me?'
'Huh? No, I'd rather read this book about cancer...'

As soon as Bob was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer, he and his wife Elizabeth started making cancer jokes to take the edge off of an otherwise frightening situation. A lot of those jokes were about sex. Here, textile artist Elizabeth Shefrin has picked up a needle and thread to share those intimate jokes, revealing how they helped her and her husband to process the realities of cancer treatment.

Giving lightness and humour to a rarely discussed topic, this unpretentious and wry embroidered comic will create awareness and discourse around a taboo topic, resonating with others in similar situations and reassuring us that it's ok to laugh.

This charming and very funny tale recounts the impact of prostate cancer not just on a patient, but on a couple, with a particular emphasis on physical intimacy and sex - subjects that you'll hardly ever find mentioned in medical commentaries. You'll laugh, and you'll ponder, as you share this unique marriage of craft and compelling content.
Sima Elizabeth Shefrin is a textile artist and illustrator and her work has been shown throughout North America. Her husband, folk singer Bob Bossin, has been through treatment for prostate cancer, and The Embroidered Cancer Comic is based on their experiences. Elizabeth lives in British Columbia, Canada. Visit her website at
Elizabeth Shefrin has produced a brave and amusing book about the particular journey of her and her husband's sex life through a radical prostatectomy. Her cleverly stitched cartoons will give many couples a very positive yet comical perspective on sexuality post-surgery.
Meg Hickling, C.M., O.B.C., LL.D (Hon), author of More Speaking of Sex and Boys Girls and Body Science
The Embroidered Cancer Comic uses humour to shed light on the impact of prostate cancer on a couple's intimate and vulnerable journey from diagnosis to treatment, from a wife's point of view. Although no two couple's journeys are the same when faced with a diagnosis of prostate cancer, Elizabeth's and Bob's journey shares how they used humour to cope with the diagnosis and maintain their intimacy in the face of uncertainty. I recommend this book to nurses, other healthcare professionals and to couples as part of a tool kit to help them explore their needs and strengths. The images and intimate dialogue in this comic may help couples laugh and cry and also share their thoughts and feelings with each other, as well as their healthcare team.
Sandra E. Melchiorre, RN MSN
This comic will help other patients and their partners recognize what effect prostate cancer and its treatment are having on their relationship, and highlight the need to address these dynamics openly.
Dr. Peter Black, Vancouver Prostate Centre
Elizabeth's work is at once single-panel comics and yet also meditations on the everyday profound experiences of health and illness. The simplicity of the stitched lines reveal the depth of the moments depicted. Her work both echoes the ancient and gestures to the future.
MK Czerwiec, RN, MA,
As a society, we benefit from receiving the insights and wisdom of people who have been touched by life-altering illness. Ms Shefrin uses her humour, her skill as a textile artist and her sensitivity as a socially engaged community member to help us reap this benefit.
Kate Collie, artist, research faculty member at the University of Alberta, Psychologist and Art Therapist at the Cross Cancer Institute
What a lovely book - poignant and funny. Elizabeth takes on a real-life crisis that people confront every day. I hope all my patients who struggle with this diagnosis get a chance to laugh (and probably cry) when they read this wonderful comic.
Charles King MD, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine, University of British Columbia
It is not often that the diagnosis of cancer is seen from the viewpoint of the partner and its effect on a relationship. Love, suffering, sex, laughter, resignation, fear and hope often get lost in the facts of a cancer diagnosis. All too often cancer has the predilection in older folk of hitting the organs of sexual expression. Rarely are the effects of this acknowledged or brought to the light of day. With humour and love, Shefrin has pulled aside the curtain to acknowledge the suffering, the still to be experienced pleasures, and the way through. Any committed couple experiencing the reality of cancer in their lives will sense a kinship and signposts for their own journey.
Dr Marc Gabel, Physician and Psychotherapist, and Past President of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
Shefrin imbues her thread with magic as she stitches her story with simultaneous depth and simplicity. It is utterly authentic, frightening and hopeful and is filled with self-deprecating humour as well as terrific editorial commentary - from the dog.
Miriam Moses, Librarian
In this engaging and highly entertaining cartoon novelette Elizabeth Shefrin finds humour and sweetness amidst what to many of us could have been only a daunting and difficult health crisis.
Gabor Maté M.D, Author, When The Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress
What do you do when your long-time partner and lover suddenly turns into a roommate due to the potential side effects of prostate cancer treatment? If you are Elizabeth Shefrin, you take out a needle and embroidery thread and create a delightful cartoon couple who work out the changes in their relationship through humor and love. A charming and conversation-provoking read, on a far too often neglected topic.
Trish Dryden, Associate Vice-President, Research, Centennial College, Toronto
A comic book about prostate cancer? Surely not. But in Elizabeth Shefrin's hands it turns out to be a brilliant idea. There's the story of a lived personal relationship here, told with tenderness and humour. And a clear-eyed look at prostate cancer's effects and consequences. Original and bold.
Leon Rosselson, songwriter and children’s author